Opinion

Nuclear deal with Iran and the headache of Israel
Salim Reza
01 Aug,2015

After 12 years of tedious negotiations The United States, Iran and five other world powers UK, France, Russia, China and Germany have sealed a breakthrough framework agreement outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program to keep it from being able to produce atomic weapons.

Under the agreement, Iran will be stripped of 98 percent of its enriched uranium, all of its plutonium producing capacity, and 2/3 of its centrifuges, and will be placed under the most rigorous inspection regimen in the history of nuclear proliferation negotiations.

In 2006, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing further sanctions after Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program. The sanctions covered exports of petroleum products and business dealings, including banking and insurance transactions and shipping. Over the years, sanctions have crippled Iran's economy. Iran is now desperate to get rid of the sanctions. Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful and will be happy to continue with enrichment in a limited scale under the terms of the deal.  If the deadline is missed, Iran will continue to suffer from sanctions initially imposed by the United States.
Israel, the United States' closest ally in the Middle East, has been opposing any deal with Iran.  In a recent speech to the US Congress, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu depicted Iran as a "threat to the entire world, Iran is much more than the “world’s number one sponsor of terrorism”. He believes that Iran will secretly use the enrichment technology to build the atom bomb.

 

 

According to experts with Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, the nuclear deal is dangerous because it could "widen the existing disputes between the Israeli government and the US administration". Israeli strategic experts argued that the US is "the most important political and security asset that Israel has in the international sphere". Israel pressed lawmakers to block the deal, with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer meeting privately with a group of about 40 House conservatives.

The most influential pro-Israel group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),appointed about 300 lobbyists on Capitol Hill to try to convince lawmakers, especially undecided Democrats, to vote against the deal, according to officials in the pro-Israel camp.

Netanyahu has spoken endlessly of a supposed genocidal intent from Iran's Shia leaders, invoking imagery of an impending second Holocaust of the Jewish people. But the real problem for Israel is that a nuclear Iran endangers its decades-old strategy of establishing itself as an unrivaled military power in the Middle East. That status depends on Israel being able to threaten large states like Iran into submission, contain them militarily and prevent them from spreading their influence beyond their own borders.

One the other hand, Iran's leaders only need to look to neighboring Iraq to draw conclusions about how important a nuclear deterrent is. Israel destroyed Baghdad's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, and the US invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003.

Israel has been regularly targeted attempts by Iran and the crumbling Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to transfer weapons to Hezbollah and to fortify their joint positions, including next to the Golan, against Sunni Islamist groups trying to overthrow Assad.

Effectively, Israel has been playing off the forces vying for power in Syria to keep them all exhausted by the fighting.  Israeli air strikes in Syria designed to weaken Iranian influence.

It’s known to Israel that, rival military power centers in the Middle East would transform the White House and Pentagon's assessment of US strategic interests in the region. The consequences would likely be felt most acutely by Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. While Iran would be able to intensify its support for Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad.